by Phillip Hofmeister
President of Michigan Open Carry, Inc.
Sept. 2, 2012
There has been something eating at me for a while: a certain minority who seems to have a much more than proportionate amount of attention drawn to them while they are carrying. I have to ask myself, why do the people in this small minority get so much attention? I'm left to think about one possible reason: they are seeking the attention.
First, I agree that if it is legal, every open carrier should carry a voice recorder with them. I prefer ones attached to a smart phone that upload the video in real time to the Internet in a way they cannot be deleted from the Internet via the phone. You just never know when you'll have an encounter that it'll be worth while documenting evidence. I also think people should have a recorder "always running" (maybe one that doesn't live link to the Internet -- that would drain a battery quickly!) so they can have documentation of what happened before they turned their live-upload recorder on. Some would suggest that if you carry a recording device while open carrying, you're (100%, no exception) just looking for confrontation. I reject that suggestion entirely. In fact, I think the vast majority of people who are carrying recording devices are just going about their daily lives, no seeking any confrontation. Now back to my original question: why do you open carry?
Here are a few reasons people might carry openly:
1. Self-defense. They believe there is a tactical advantage to open carry and that amongst those advantages are: a visual deterrent and a faster draw. Great! Carry on and defend yourself and those you love, I am with you!
2. Activism/Political Statement. These people believe that a "right not exercised is a right lost". They also believe that because they carry openly they have opportunities to talk to others (when approached) in a calm, friendly, professional way about why they carry a gun. These conversations help others better understand their rights and promote the second amendment in a positive way. Ryan Ransom, Treasurer and SW Coordinator of Michigan Open Carry, Inc. has performed an experiment with a friend who asked him why he open carries. They were hanging out together on that day. Ryan said for the first half of the day he will conceal carry and at noon he will start open carrying. Their morning went by completely uneventful. No one talked to them other than small talk pleasantries in passing. After noon, when Ryan started to carry openly, there were occasions where people approached Ryan and asked about his gun, why he carries, and Ryan gave them information about their rights and why they should consider carrying to protect themselves and those they love. These such encounters are almost entirely positive with very few exception.
3. You are carrying because you are seeking attention (often negative) from law enforcement officer (LEO) and/or private persons. Some things that may contribute to the type of encounters you get are: how you dress, what you carry, how you present yourself, your general attitude when approached. I'm not suggesting you should be submissive and forfeit any of your rights when approached by a LEO. That being said, if when you talk to a person (LEO or otherwise) you seem to have a chip on your shoulder -- it's going to drastically shape the nature of the encounter! Last night I went walking downtown Lansing while Openly Carrying. I like to get out and walk and sometime I like to go downtown to see how the night life is. Despite the fact of many inebriated persons, I had not one negative encounter. Several people did notice I was carrying and had pleasant conversations with me. Most were curious and they left their encounter with me more educated about Open Carry than when they started it -- much like Ryan's experiences in #2 above. Not a single negative encounter -- despite a very large presence of law enforcement (as you would expect in a place where you have hundreds of drunks of the streets). I have found if you look like a respectable, approachable person that people might want to talk to (gun aside) that you will have positive encounters. If you look or act like a thug who people might want to avoid and you are carrying a gun, you're more likely to have negative encounters and have 9-1-1 called on you. I think if you carry for the purpose of seeking negative attention, you're likely to find it.
So, if you are in fact openly carrying to seek personal attention, show that you have a chip on your shoulder, and just foaming at the mouth to have a negative encounter so you can post it on YouTube, let me ask you this: don't Open Carry -- you give the rest of us a bad name.
That all being said, I hope we can all rally behind #1 and #2 above as reasons that Open Carry is a good thing. Our goal in open carrying shouldn't be to shock people or grab negative attention, but to leave
them thinking better about gun owners than before they saw us.